Fear of Public Speaking, and then what?
I'm going to assume that you are reading this post because you or someone you know suffers from this common syndrome of fear of public speaking, which honestly makes you part of about 80 to 90% of the population worldwide. Hey, at least you are not alone, right?
So, we could agree that it is pretty common, isn't it? We could also decide together to start looking at why we suffer from fear of public speaking and the fact that our monkey or lizard brain kicks in every time we are in front of an audience. Clearly, our fight or flight mechanism gets triggered as if we were being hunted by a Lyon, which I find interesting and funny at the same time. If we put things in perspective, it's not that bad after all but our mind doesn't seem to reconcile with our current reality, does it?
Another thing we could do is to start looking at the different things that are stopping you from actually speaking in public but in the end, this is not what this blog is about. Have you heard the expression, where focus goes, energy flows? Well, guess what, if you continue to think about the problem, your brain will continue to create more connections from a neuroplasticity standpoint, which in return will keep you where you are today (stuck with your fear of public speaking). This is what I call problem-based thinking.
Since my approach is more outcome-based thinking (the opposite to the above), here comes my first question. What are you going to do about your fear of public speaking?
And you might think, well, thank you, Jose. I come looking for advice and support and there you are asking me a question. And I would say, yes, indeed, anything to get you thinking towards a solution or at least a different outcome to the one you are currently achieving.
Nowadays in our society, we are so used to going out there looking for advice, asking others to suggest solutions to our problems, when, in my opinion, the first step should be to go inside and ask ourselves some questions. Tapping into our inner resources is powerful because this is where deep and long-lasting change takes place. Imagine if you believed that you have within you all the resources necessary to achieve what you want in life. As you carry that belief with you think about what you can do to overcome your current challenges and think about the benefits of actually realising what you desire the most.
By the way, I'm not saying that you can not ask others for help and support, I would also invite you to do this but with the intention of improving and growing in the process. Modelling excellence in others can also be another angle to learning and changing as well as hiring the services of a coach or a specialist who can help you fast track the outcome you are after. Bottom line is, whatever you want to achieve will require that you work on yourself first.
So, what would you like instead of fear of public speaking? Once you have an answer, think of how you can make it happen. Yes, it's time for action.
I want to feel confident when presenting.
I want to deliver an engaging presentation at work.
I want to do a TEDx.
Another element that I like to play around with when approached by people with this fear of public speaking is the fear of rejection. The fear of public speaking can mean different things to different people but on many occasions, there are some commonalities.
What if people disagree with what I'm saying?
What if they don't care?
What if they judge me?
What if they don't like me or my presentation?
Well, funnily enough, the above presuppositions can also be framed positively:
What if they agree?
What if they care and give me a round of applause?
What if they judge me through a positive lens?
What if they like me and my presentation?
You don't know what the audience is going to say because you don't have a crystal ball, do you? If you do, by all means, please share it with me. We will make a fortune predicting the future.
Then, the ball is on your court, you can decide what version of the "what if" questions to ask to yourself. Think about what can serve you best in achieving what you want.
Ultimately, you can't control the audience's reactions and people will judge you because it's in our nature, so what are you going to do? I personally don't care that much anymore about what they may think and instead, I focus on delivering the best version of myself so that the audience can take something of value at the end of my presentation. As you become a more experienced speaker, your focus can turn to the reactions from the audience throughout your presentation, making sure you are keeping them engaged at all times. For advanced communication and public speaking skills, check out my coaching sessions and training courses.
Next time you experience any fear of public speaking or fear of being rejected, let go of any need to control the outcome, focus on being there for the audience, make it about them and give it your very best. Remember to adopt a positive outlook and ask yourself questions that help you turn a negative into a positive.
I understand these are quite generic recommendations and yet quite useful when it comes to reframing our subjective reality.
I've also suffered from these fears and have struggled a fair deal in the past and what I've found to be extremely powerful, no matter how painful it might be at the moment, is to get started.
Here are some quotes that motivate me when going through difficult/challenging circumstances:
Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone. Pablo Picasso
Don't worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try. Jack Canfield
Start before you’re ready. Steven Pressfield
Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears. Les Brown
You don't have to be good to start ... you just have to start to be good. Joe Sabah
You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try. Beverly Sills
Get started! Get started! Get started!
Start looking for speaking opportunities, you don't have to start with a TEDx, although I hope at some point you do. Begin small, baby steps but do something. You can look for speaking opportunities within your community, your favourite networking group, at your school or university. You can even start by recording yourself with your phone and asking your friends for feedback and if that still feels like too much, then don't share it yet but do give yourself some feedback. Speak in front of the mirror or in the shower, get started and you will notice the change.
What happens when you get started?
New neurological connections are created, you begin to stretch yourself in a positive way and change begins to take place. It's just like going to the gym, hard at the beginning but then it becomes easier and especially rewarding as results start to show. The same happens with public speaking and any other skill you decide to learn and develop. Yes, it will require hard and smart work because there is no such thing as an overnight success.
Future pace yourself by visualising the changes that will take place in your life as you begin to speak in public more often. Visualise the impact in your relationships as you become more confident, at work as you turn into the person to go to for presenting at shows and events and anything else you can possibly imagine.
Remember, the more you do it, the better you will get at it.
I would like to finish this blog by saying that if you have fear of public speaking, the first thing to do is to get started. Begin to focus on the solution rather than on the problem and visualise how your life would be different as a result of your public speaking success (whatever that success might be).
Before I go, think about this for a moment. How you do one thing you do many, meaning that if you are not willing to get started in order to overcome your fears, there will be other things you are postponing or not starting. It will also mean that there are other areas in your life where you are feeling fearful... Once you allow change into your life it will have a ripple effect on other areas and also the people you come into contact with, this is known as ecology. Change your habits to change your life.
I hope you enjoyed this blog.
All the best,
Communication and Public Speaking Coach
Public speaking can heal you and set you free. This is why I love it.